For this leap, I’ll use a 1992 article by David B. Batstone as a springboard:
In sum, apocalyptic was a dynamic medium of spiritual power and life in the social world of Jesus…It offered a way of looking at the world that rejected the dominant powers as the ultimate point of reference for the world and posited another horizon where justice may reign. (395)
Let’s start by understanding that “apocalyptic” does not mean some cataclysmic end of the world, necessarily. It simply comes from a Greek word (ἀποκαλύπτω) which means ‘to uncover.’ Apocalyptic, then, has to do with uncovering, or revealing.
For me, Jesus is most definitely an apocalyptic figure. Foremost is the fact that he is God, revealed in human form to us. That’s a huge, stunning revelation/uncovering. Second, Jesus reveals the Kingdom of God to us. The Kingdom of God is where I want to live (both in reality and for the rest of this post).
When Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God, essentially, we see the world as we knew it coming to an end (there’s your Apocalypse!). As Batstone puts it, no longer are the earthly powers the ultimate point of reference. Mighty “your majesties” and rich folk no longer make the world go ‘round. Rather, in the Kingdom of God the poor become rich, and the servant becomes master.
This is an empowering thought. Social significance in the Kingdom of God has no regard for political or financial might. Rather, it is an assessment of one’s heart that forms the basis for worth. The dominant power is now God, whose system of justice is hitherto foreign to humanity.
Jesus, I think, represents the overturning of social hierarchies that had long dominated humanity. Believers are encouraged to forfeit their possessions, to serve their masters even if they are wicked, and to obey the commands of God even to the point of death.
For all of this, Jesus is our exemplar. He is both revolutionary and docile. He is both the friendly Jesus, and the fiery, apocalyptic Jesus.
I’m wondering: “Is this our call?”